December 18, 2008

Quick notes on 2008 :

1) Apple proved they were brilliant ... in an old fashioned way. But nevertheless brilliant ... and dominant in the mobile device-swarm and PCs for the aspirational elite of pretty much all smart professions. Their 2009 story is (sadly) about Steve Jobs' health.

2) Google revealed that they now run the world. That their 20%-time distributed R&D gives them an accelerated entry into everything new that's going on. But it also revealed that they are mortal and capable of mediocre me-too-ism. The story of 2009 will be some of Google's services losing to better rivals and failing. Does Google know how to handle that?

3) Amazon showed they were visionary (in clouds and Kindles) and focused enough to execute. Their 2009 story is about making the cloud work. And whether the Kindle ecosystem can take off.

4) Nintendo were vindicated, demonstrating again that genuine creativity and innovation sees off the mere imitators in gaming.

5) Microsoft showed that they are walking dead. Void of ideas or courage to drive innovation forward. Their 2009 story is going to be whether they face up to the threat which is, to them, existential : the end of "software as a stand-alone product"

6) Sun were revealed as clueless.

7) Sony clunked. They have technical ability but lack inspiration.

8) Asus turned out to be more innovative than any other PC maker ... and now Netbooks are going to conquer the world.

9) Facebook revealed they were evil after all. But they're still a force to be reckoned with.

10) Unlike Yahoo, who aren't. I'd still be intrigued if Apple bought Yahoo and tried to remake it in their image. But I can't see it.

11) Adobe have a great thing with Flex and AIR. But everyone can see that. Microsoft will throw a *lot* of resources behind Silverlight to try to take Adobe's place. And Titanium looks a very interesting free-software alternative to AIR.

I was proved wrong in thinking that the browser was no longer interesting when Google came out with Chrome. The full impact of this is yet to be seen.

12) In fact, Platform Wars was generally busted ... the two big trends I've been watching for : the YASNS-as-platform and the device swarm didn't really materialize as clearly and distinctly as I expected. Apple's App. Store was perhaps the nearest we saw to both these trends coming to fruition with Apple providing a popular device and distribution infrastructure to specialist developers. Google have got all the pieces (GAE, Android, FriendConnect, Gadgets, Orkut etc.) but haven't put them together in quite the right way. Maybe next year, fumbling around in competition with Apple and Facebook the pieces will start coming together.

Of actual devices, only the iPhone really excited attention. LiveScribe came and didn't change the world. Nor did Chumby or Nabaztag. Possibly they're too expensive for something so specialized ...

13) Trends to watch in 2009 ...

a) Cloud providers trying to make their clouds profitable while signing up real clients.

b) Microsoft wrestling with its soul.

c) The rise of the online spreadsheet.

d) Energy efficiency.

e) Google having to handle (localized) failures.

f) Who gets the good bits of Yahoo?

g) Applications built for the browser (or AIR/Titanium/XULRunner etc. desktop virtual machines built with the same Javascript / HTML / CSS / jQuery technology) will continue to expand. Development of ordinary desktop software will crash.

Few people or companies will find it worth developing desktop applications.
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